NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Belmont baseball team (24-12, 10-3) lost the opening game of the weekend series for the first time in Atlantic Sun Conference play this season, falling to Mercer (22-14, 5-8) by a score of 7-4 on Friday night. Senior captain Zac Mitchell (Cordova, Tenn.) went two-for-four and drove in two runs in the defeat.
Belmont strung together three singles in the second inning to record the first run of the game, and its only score until the ninth. Freshman Jamie Ritchie (Buford, Ga.) started the rally with a single to center field, while freshman Scott Moses (Englewood, Tenn.) singled to the short stop to put two men on for the Bruins. Mitchell then drove in Ritchie with a single to left center field giving BU the 1-0 lead.
Mercer quickly tied the game at 1-1 with a solo homer off of junior Chase Brookshire (Chattanooga, Tenn.) to lead off the bottom of the second. The starting pitcher threw a perfect third inning, worked himself out of a jam in the fourth, but then allowed three runs in the fifth, relinquishing the Belmont lead.
Two singles and a hit by pitch loaded the bases for the Bears. Brookshire then walked his fourth batter of the game to give Mercer a 2-1 lead. The left-hander hadn't walked more than two batters in a single game this season before Friday. Derrick Workman's double on the next at bat made it 4-1 in favor of Mercer heading into the sixth.
After the aforementioned trio of singles in the second inning, the Bruin bats struggled until the ninth. Belmont managed only three hits, including two by sophomore Greg Brody (Dacula, Ga.), during the stretch. Freshman Austin Coley (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) relieved Brookshire for the sixth, and was effective in allowing just one unearned run on no hits, no walks, and striking out four in two innings of work.
Unfortunately for Belmont, Mercer was able to add two runs on three singles and two walks in the eighth inning to take a 7-1 lead. The Bruins' three-run ninth brought the tying run to the plate, but it wasn't enough as the Bears finished with the 7-4 victory.
Junior captain Drew Turner (Shelbyville, Tenn.) led off the ninth inning with a single down the left field line. Ritchie then recorded his second hit of the night on a single to right field, before Moses walked to load the bases with one out.
Turner scored the first run of the rally on a passed ball by the Bears, while Mitchell and senior Dylan Craig each recorded RBI singles to cut the Mercer lead to 7-4. MU's Brandon Barker was then able to strike out Brody and junior Judah Akers (Cookeville, Tenn.) to record the save and take the first game of the series.
Belmont finished with four runs on 10 hits and two errors. Brookshire fell to 5-2 on the season after allowing four runs on six hits. Mitchell, Brody, and Ritchie tallied two hits each to lead the Bruins at the plate.
Mercer totaled seven runs on nine hits and no errors. Brandon Love improved to 5-3 on the year after allowing one run on five hits in six innings pitched. Barker recorded his second save of the season, tallying the final two outs of the game. Nick Backlund led the Bears at the plate with three hits.
Belmont will attempt to even the series on Saturday. The two teams will square off at 3:00 p.m. CT with senior captain Matt Hamann (Northbrook, Ill.) taking the mound for Belmont, and Dimitri Kourtis scheduled to start for Mercer.